Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Test Guide

The Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Test Summary
What: NCCAOM exams offer national certification in acupuncture, oriental medicine, Chinese herboloy, and Asian bodywork therapy.
Who: Those wishing to be certified acupuncturists or practitioners of Oriental medicine should take the exam and become certified.
Where: NCCAOM exams are administered at over 200 Pearson VUE testing centers throughout the United States.
When: Exams can be taken year-round, following approval of eligibility to test, with the exception of the Asian Bodywork Therapy Exam, which is only offered once a year.
How: NCCAOM exams are given using computerized adaptive testing methods.
Type: Multiple choice
Why: NCCAOM certification is a requirement of licensing in most states, benefits employment opportunities, assists in easier payment from insurance companies and shows clients that you adhere to national standards of safety and competence.
Time: NCCAOM exams for Acupuncture with Point Location, Chinese Herbology and Foundations of Oriental Medicine have a 2
Language: Exams are given in English. Once a year, they are also given in Chinese and Korean.
Preparation: Students can prepare with practice tests and test outlines.
Cost: Application fees range from $400 - $550 and exam fees range from $200 - $300, depending on the specialty.


By Andrea Cohen, Tests.com Contributing Writer

The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is a non-profit organization that establishes and promotes national standards of safety and competence in acupuncture and Oriental medicine in order to protect and benefit the public. NCCAOM certification differs from state licensing requirements, but in over 40 states, NCCAOM certification is a requirement of state licensure. Candidates should check with their state about additional licensing requirements.

Those who meet NCCAOM certification requirements can refer to themselves as being Nationally Board Certified and will carry the following designations:

  • Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)or Dipl. O.M.(NCCAOM)
  • Diplomate in Acupuncture (NCCAOM)or Dipl. Ac.(NCCAOM)
  • Diplomate in Chinese Herbology (NCCAOM)or Dipl. C.H.(NCCAOM)
  • Diplomate in Asian Bodywork Therapy (NCCAOM)or Dipl. A.B.T.(NCCAOM)

Why the NCCAOM Exam is Important

The NCCAOM is the only nationally-recognized certification program for acupuncturists and Oriental medicine practitioners in the United States. This organization awards certification in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology, Oriental Medicine and Asian Bodywork Therapy. In most states, NCCAOM certification is a requirement for licensure. Some employers require NCCAOM certification for hiring purposes, and many third-party payers and insurers use the designation to determine financial reimbursement. NCCAOM certification also proves to clients that their practitioner adheres to all nationally-accepted standards of practice.

NCCAOM certification is good for four years. Continuing education is a requirement for recertification. Once certified, practitioners can also be listed in the NCCAOM Directory of Diplomates (Certification Registry) on the NCAAOM website.

NCCAOM Exam Format

NCCAOM exams use a method called computerized adaptive testing (CAT). This means that every exam given is geared specifically towards the ability of the test taker. If a question is answered correctly, the tester is given a more difficult question next. If a question is answered incorrectly, the next question will be slightly easier. According to NCCAOM, adaptive testing “offers one of the most reliable measures of competency.”

The Acupuncture with Point Location, Chinese Herbology and Foundations of Oriental Medicine exams each have 100 multiple choice questions in a two-and-a-half hour time limit. The Biomedicine exam contains 50 multiple choice questions and has a one hour time limit. All questions must be answered on the test or the candidate will be considered to have failed the test. You will not be able to go back to any previous questions to answer.


Exam candidates will receive an immediate preliminary pass or fail notification after they have completed the exam while still at the testing center. The official score report is mailed within twenty business days. If a candidate fails the test, they can immediately sign up to test again, although it is not recommended. If a test is failed three times, candidates must complete 15 professional development points prior to retaking the test. Candidates are only allowed to take the exam five times. Since the exam uses the method of adaptive testing, there is no set number of questions that have to be answered correctly in order to pass. The score is based on the difficulty of the questions, the number answered correctly and the overall ability of the candidate based on the exam results.

Exam Registration

Candidates interested in the exam must first submit an application that includes questions about health, legal status and history. Students who are attending or those who have graduated from an education program meeting the standards of the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) may submit an application for the exam at any time. There are approximately 50 accredited colleges in the United States offering certification in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Students educated outside of the United States should first complete their Foreign Education Evaluation by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) prior to applying for the exam.

There are two separate fees involved in NCCAOM certification, one each for the application and exam. Application fees are due when the application is submitted and are not refundable for any reason. Exam fees are paid directly to Pearson VUE, the testing center, when registering.

Application Fees:

Oriental Medicine $550
Acupuncture $425
Chinese Herbology $425
Asian Bodywork Therapy $400

Exam Fees:

Acupuncture with Point Location Module $300
Biomedicine Module $200
Chinese Herbology Module $300
Foundations of Oriental Medicine Module $300
Asian Bodywork Therapy $300

Taking the Test

The NCCAOM offers year-round testing for all of their certification exams, with the exception of Asian Bodywork Therapy, which is offered just once a year. There are no application or registration deadlines. The only prerequisite for testing is that NCCAOM must first approve applicants to take the test. Following submission of an application, this process may take 10 – 12 weeks to complete.

Once approved for testing, candidates can register directly by phone or online with Pearson VUE, a testing company that administers the NCCAOM certification exams at over 200 locations. Candidates can take the test based on their own schedule, pending availability at the testing center, and can also choose whether to take their exams at one time or spread them out and take at different times. Candidates have four years from the date their application is received by NCCAOM to receive their certification, so retests can be taken during that time frame if the candidate does not initially pass the exam.

NCCAOM Exam Preparation

Practice tests and outlines are available for exam candidate to use for studying. On the day of the exam, test takers will need their authorization to test letter, as well as two forms of ID (one must be a driver’s license or state ID with photo and signature). Nothing else can be brought into the exam.

Source: National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, nccaom.org